February 15, 2006 -- This inept sequel to the much superior “The Mask of Zorro” (1998) is typical of many sequels. The budget is big, the production values high, but the script stinks and the over-the-top stunts are absurdly exaggerated. Loads of frivolous action can't make up for a scatterbrained plot like this. Stars Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones return from the original, joined by their on-screen son, a Zorro-in-the-making, in case there is another sequel.
The film has plenty of light-hearted action and some excellent stunt work, headed by stunt coordinator David Leitch. All of this frenetic activity is in service of an unbelievably nonsensical, hyperactive plot which involves gallons of nitroglycerin, Pinkerton detective spies and a secret European cabal (the Knights Of Aragon) which is trying to fix the outcome of the impending American civil war. There are also land grabs and attempts to rig the California election on statehood. On top of all that, there is marital strife between Don Alejandro de la Vega (Banderas) and his wife, Elena (Zeta-Jones). Their divorce is one of the more unbelievable byproducts of this unwieldy and over-complicated plot, along with spies and untrained, unofficial undercover operatives. The film's reliance on spies and conspiracies is vaguely reminiscent of another, similar turkey from a few years ago, “The Wild Wild West.”
Banderas and Zeta-Jones are charismatic, likeable stars, but they are largely wasted in this expensive boondoggle. Zorro's son, played by Adrian Alonso, is likeable. Rufus Sewell, who often plays the villain in movies, is deliciously evil as the villain Armand. Another good villain is the wooden-toothed, Bible-thumping, psychopathic Jacob McGivens (played by Nick Chinlund). This is another unfortunate example of Hollywood's fixation on Christian villains. At least the film has an equal-opportunity Christian hero, the two-fisted Brother Ignacio (Alberto Reyes), who stands up to the villains and hides Zorro's secret identity.
The acting in this film is good enough that it could have carried this film if it was written as a character-driven plot. Instead, the actors are at the mercy of an idiot plot. For some reason, the screenwriters felt it was necessary to keep the audience in the dark about the various conspiracies in the movie for quite a while. As a result, by the time the conspiracies are revealed in movie, I had lost what little interest I had in the story. Most of the characters in the movie can't figure out what is going on either. The mystery portion of the story doesn't work because it is way too absurd to be of any interest to inquiring minds. This film rates a D+.
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